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Tilda Swinton (Do Not Reuse)
Photograph: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock.com

Celebrating Swinton: six filmmakers on why Tilda is tops

What makes Tilda Swinton so special? Six of her directors tell us why she rocks

By Time Out Film
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Tilda Swinton has one of the most eclectic careers in modern cinema. Not many actors could gracefully flit between the big-budget world of blockbusters and avant-garde film, but she can. From her leading role in Sally Potter’s ‘Orlando’ to her appearance in Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’, Swinton has continually shredded and re-written the rule book.

This is why the BFI has just awarded the Londoner with one of its most prestigious honours: a BFI Fellowship. It’s also putting on a season that pays homage to Swinton and her work. To celebrate both, as well as her career, we asked six filmmakers who have worked with her to tell us what it is that makes Tilda Swinton such a star. 

Tony Gilroy and actress Tilda Swinton (Do Not Reuse)
Tony Gilroy and actress Tilda Swinton (Do Not Reuse)
Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for DGA

Tony Gilroy

‘Michael Clayton’ (2007)

‘My very first day as a director was shooting the introduction of Tilda’s character. Everything worked. We finished early. It was the most gentle deflowering imaginable. What did I feel when she won the Oscar? Stupid grinning pride.’ 

Armando Iannucci (do not reuse)
Armando Iannucci (do not reuse)
Photograph: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Armando Iannucci

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ (2019)

‘She has lots of positive energy. She had to pretend to kick donkeys [in the film] but was very careful that no donkey was harmed. The donkeys had a nice time. The stunt people on the donkeys were another story. She walloped them.’ 

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Tilda Swinton and writer/director Lynn Hershman-Leeson Do not reuse
Tilda Swinton and writer/director Lynn Hershman-Leeson Do not reuse
Photograph: J. Vespa/WireImage

Lynn Hershman Leeson

‘Conceiving Ada’ (1997), ‘Teknolust’ (2002), ‘Strange Culture’ (2007), ‘Tania Libre’ (2017)

‘What’s my favourite thing about Tilda? Both on and off set, it’s her subtle humour, irony and pure unrestrained giddiness that makes being with her so exquisite.’ 

Sally Potter (do not reuse)
Sally Potter (do not reuse)
Photograph: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.com

Sally Potter

‘Orlando’ (1992)

‘After five years of [preparation] for “Orlando”, we finally found ourselves on a Leningrad ice rink in winter, shooting a banquet scene. After the first take we hugged and laughed and cried; we had arrived. There is a deep joy in collaborating with someone with the appetite to go as far as it is possible to go.’ 

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Jim Jarmusch, actress Tilda Swinton
Jim Jarmusch, actress Tilda Swinton
PHotograph: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Jim Jarmusch

‘Broken Flowers’ (2005), ‘The Limits of Control’ (2009), ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2017), ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ (2019) 

‘I first met Tilda almost 20 years ago in LA at a concert by The Darkness. She was wearing glittery Bowie-esque platform boots and towered over me (and I’m almost 6' 2"!). For some magical reason we immediately connected, and our friendship and collaborations seemed completely inevitable.’ 

Mark Cousins (Do not reuse)
Mark Cousins (Do not reuse)
Photograph: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock.com

Mark Cousins

‘Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema’ (2020)

‘Tilda is heartbreaking and driven in “Julia”, a time traveller in “Orlando”, and an out-of-control peacock in “A Bigger Splash”. In each she’s unstoppable, like a cannonball. Her energy is amazing. She’s like Louise Brooks drawn by Egon Schiele.’

The Tilda Swinton season runs at BFI Southbank throughout March. Head here for more information and to book tickets. 

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